Making Moments Count

October 29th, 2013

Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel prize winning psychologist studying how people chose to be happy. He has proposed that humans have two versions of themselves: the experiential self and the remembering self. Though our remembering selves tend to dominate, there can be great benefits in nurturing our experiential self, for recognizing and appreciating the many moments that make up a day.

By Kahneman’s calculation, a moment is about 3 seconds. Given that our lives are nothing more than a string of moments coming one after another, the average person has about 20,000 moments in the course of a day.

Think back on your day yesterday. How many of your 20,000 moments do you remember?

Odds are, it’s not very many. We tend to rush through our lives without thinking. But what if we were able to slow down and appreciate even a small fraction of the moments in a day? What if we took advantage of those moments to appreciate the people in them?

A worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson showed that the single highest driver of worker engagement is whether or not employees feel appreciated. That means that simply taking a moment to tell someone that they’ve done a good job goes further than any other activity when it comes to building an engaged team.

Now let’s assume you’re one of those rare individuals who spends just eight hours of your day at work. If every moment takes about 3 seconds, that means you have 9,600 moments in every workday. Even if you devoted just one tenth of one percent of those moments to checking in with your team to appreciate their work, you would have over 9 positive interactions every day.

Let’s look at a few of the ways in which we can let our employees know they are appreciated in 3 seconds or less:

  • Respond to an email with a quick note saying “good work on this”
  • Saying the words “thank you” takes about half a second, leaving you 2.5 seconds to say what you’re thankful for
  • Leave a note on a public white board announcing the completion of a project and the parties responsible
  • When someone hands you a document, take two seconds to look at it and one second to give a little nod of approval
  • Take the time to cc someone on an email in which you say something nice about them
  • Forward an email from a happy client

When you start looking for them, opportunities to turn average moments into positive reinforcement abound. When you slow down to take advantage of them, you will notice a difference in your team.

Psychologists have found that negative feedback tends to create low performing teams. While we cannot create a space where negative feedback doesn’t exist (we do still need to give constructive criticism to help individuals improve) we can offer more positive feedback to balance out the ratio of positive to negative. As it turns out, that ratio is important. Teams that perform well experience positive feedback five times more than negative.

So how do you find time to give so much positive feedback? By taking advantage of just one tenth of one percent of the moments in your day.